I’d like to switch gears to a new topic, one which is of high interest to many readers of this blog. I know, because you told me in the survey I ran several weeks ago. One of the most-wanted topics was the question of “How do I write faster?”
Today, we’re going to start talking about that. I’d like to begin with a guest blog from a friend of mine, Susan Meissner, who has several books under her belt. First, a little about Susan:
Susan Meissner, who began writing novels in 2004, is the author of eight published works, with two more to be released in 2008. When she’s not writing at breakneck speed, she is directing the small groups ministry at her church, mothering her four kids, and enjoying good coffee and great books with her husband, Bob. You can find out more about her at her web site at www.SusanMeissner.com.
I asked Susan to write a short article about one of her favorite topics, “300 Pages in 30 Days.” This seems very apropo, in light of the recent National Novel Writing Month, where budding writers are challenged to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That works out to about 200 pages, so Susan is upping the ante by about 50%! Here’s what Susan wrote:
300 Pages in 30 Days
I’ll be honest here from the get-go. I never intended to write 300 pages in 30 days. It was never a plan of mine to do such a thing. I also never planned to write ten novels in five years, though that’s what I’ve done. None of these books were old Works-in-Regress; I didn’t have any half-finished projects sitting in drawers turning maizey with age. All the concepts were new at the time I began writing.
There was no bold plan to pump ’em out at lightning speed to make a point. I wasn’t in a race, and I wasn’t trying to prove anything to anyone. It just happened.
After my fourth novel in less than two years was published, people began asking me how I write so fast. The answer I first came up with was short and to the point: “I don’t know.”
Because in the beginning, I didn’t. It was just the way I wrote. But because wide-eyed people kept asking, I decided to analyze the way I churn out a book from inception to the last page. And this is what I now share with people and workshop audiences and inquiring minds who want to know. This is how I write 300 pages in 30 days. My way isn’t the easy way to write a book. It’s not the best way to write a book. I don’t even recommend it over another way. But if you want to know how a novel can be written in less time than it takes to grow a mullet, I can tell how it can be done. If you want to know how to make the most of your writing time, how to remove distractions, how to let the story flow, how to avoid those deathly “Now what?” writing scares, I can tell you that, too.
I wrote my first novel in 10 weeks, my second in eleven, the third in eight and the fourth, in 30 days. No, I wasn’t working a fulltime job at the time, just part-time hours. Yes, I still had kids at home who wanted dinner and clean socks everyday. And no, it wasn’t a walk in the park. It was hard work, as is the writing of any book in any time frame.
Because my books were written so quickly, they must be fluff reading; sixth-grade level prose that is incapable of leaving a lasting impression, right? I won’t be the judge of that, but I will say my second novel, A Window to the World, was named to Booklist’s Top Ten Christian Novels for 2005. Two were finalists in the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year contest, and my ninth, Blue Heart Blessed, which releases in Feb ’08, was just reviewed by the hard-to-please folks at Publisher’s Weekly, and it received a moderately enthusiastic thumb’s up. I think they very nearly liked it.
I am not a champion of writing at microwave-oven speed, nor do I pooh-pooh crock pot writers who let a book marinate and stew for years before they declare it’s finished. I am however a champion of writing at the speed that fits your style. This one fits mine. And if you are frustrated with your writing speed not meshing with your writing style, then maybe you’ll want to consider my way and see if it’s for you.
The secret to producing 300 pages of quality stuff in 30 days is really no secret. It’s the same dynamic that makes any big project that comes together in an abbreviated time span a success. It starts with a “P.” Want to hear more?
Randy sez: Yes, we’re dying to hear more! Tell us, Speedy Susie!
Yes, dying. I’m extremely “Piqued” to know more on this. Thanks for the tease, honest. I’ll play along since we’re forced to sit and wait with nothing better to do.
Maybe “P” stands for “Pray” – but perhaps this is a given. I can speak from experience and say that it’s not “Perfectionism”; this and “Speedy” don’t mix.
Of course there’s “perseverance” but that’s more used for enduring painfully long car rides with smelly mother-in-laws or way too chatty ten-year-olds.
I’m wondering about “Pathological”, but it hasn’t worked to speed me up yet. Neither has “Pendantic” or “Psychopathic”.
I’m going to go with my gut and guess “Passion”.
Christophe Desmecht says
Hi Randy, Susie and everyone else reading this blog.
I have to admit reading this blog with only one eye in the last few weeks, but this topic immediately piqued my interest!
I want to hear more. Some people say that love or money is the most important thing to have, but I say that time ranks at least as high, especially in this day and age where nobody seems to have the time to do anything anymore.
Working a full-time job and doing overtime to boot, I hardly find the time to sit down and just write anymore. Needless to say, I want to know how to get the full benefit from those few writing hours.
Oh, and I think the word is “Pirate”, because they are cool. It doesn’t match, but it’s cool!
Andra M. says
I know, it doesn’t fit (quite the opposite), but it’s the first “p” word that popped into my head.
Robert Treskillard says
Great topic, Randy! You’ve got me curious as to what the secret is, but I’ll put forth my own guess:
For me, I tend to write faster when I’m emotionally involved with my characters and what’s happening to them–when I’m passionate about what I’m writing.
Just a guess!
Sorry, I had to come back and say 1. Yes, I know it’s ‘pedantic’ not ‘pendantic’ and 2. yes, typos are proof that I’m not the perfectionist I once was, and 3. Christophe, I’ll vote for ‘piracy’ too, even if all it gets me is a closer look at Johnny Depp.
4. I’d like to ask Susan to take a quick peek at my blog heading and let me know (there, not here) if she thinks there’s anything funny about her blog title & layout vs mine.
Robert Treskillard says
I commented before I read the others … Camille, it looks like we agree!
I have also been reading your blog recently with only one eye, through a blog aggregator. But, this definitely got my attention. I have been extraordinarily busy lately, and I want to know how to maximize my writing time.
My guess is Planning.
I know that I always write better when I plan things out in advance. When I know who my characters are, what they want, where the plot is going, and how it all ends. Things may change, but that structure keeps me going and at it because I have a big picture.
The word has to be perspiration. Four kids, laundry, food, not to mention the socks!
Andie Mock says
I’m going with Garret and planning, but passion and planning would be a killer combo.
Andra M. says
You and I were thinking alike, because I didn’t notice until your second comment you also thought of pedantic.
ML Eqatin says
If I had to bet, I’d go with Passion, too. But might I also suggest Purpose? Living intentionally (as Rick Warren puts it) makes me get a lot done. Especially as I see one of Susan’s books involves the plight of single mothers, one she wanted to bring to the attention of her readers.